India will resume scheduled commercial international passenger flights from December 15, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation announced on Friday.
However, the DGCA has laid out restrictions for 12 regions and countries that have been designated as “at risk”. These include four countries – South Africa, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong – where the new B.1.1.529 variant of Covid-19 has been detected.
They also include the European Union, including the United Kingdom, and Brazil, Bangladesh, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Singapore.
With respect to countries that are “at risk” and have an air bubble with India, flights will be allowed to resume at 75% of pre-coronavirus or a minimum of seven frequencies per week. With respect to countries that are “at risk” and do not have an air bubble with India, flights can resume at 50% of bilateral capacity entitlements or 50% of pre-Covid-19 operations, whichever is higher.
For all other countries, scheduled international flights can return to normal.
Both domestic and international flights were suspended at the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020. However, since June 2020, the government allowed limited operations of Air India flights under the “Vande Bharat” mission for certain categories like Overseas Citizenship of India, Persons of Indian Origin card-holders and other Indians who were stuck abroad due to the pandemic.
Subsequently, restrictions were eased in a phased manner as India entered into air bubble agreements with several countries. Under a bilateral air bubble agreement, both countries can operate to and fro flights with some restrictions. As of November 22, India has air bubble agreements with 31 countries.